Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Brabourn Stadium

Seeing Brabourn stadium in Champions trophy brought memories of my early days of seeing live cricket matches. My first experience was Mumbai v/s Baroda. Mumbai team had Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Sardesai, Ajit Pai, Saeed Hathia. On that day, Baroda opted to bat and Vijay Bhosle scored a century. My second match was West Zone v/s South Zone Duleep trophy final. West Zone started with Niranjan Shah, Madhu Gupte followed by Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Sardesai, Vijay Bhosle, Ashok Mankad, Ajit Pai. South had Jayantilal, Govindraj, Krishnamurthi etc. Ajit Wadekar would get the rousing welcome he would enter to bat one down. In later years, Sunil Gavaskar, Sandip Patil and Sachin Tendulkar got similar applause. I remember a catch of the bowling of Govindraj. Second slip fielder dived and scooped the ball up, first slip fielder lifted it up and the ball was caught by the wicketkeeper. Kulkarni brothers – Vijay and Sunil, our second floor neighbour in Govt colony – both ardent cricket fans and players took me both times to Brabourn stadium.

My first experience of watching test match was India v/s England, not from Brabourn Stadium but from office balcony that was behind the East stand. The funny part was we could only see half the ground – thankfully pitch was included. So when bowler bowled from Churchgate end, we could see only off side. From Pavilion end, it would be on side that was visible. I think that was the match – when Captain of MCC cricket team – Tony Lewis got out on the first ball of the innings by Abid Ali. The whole stadium stood out in eruption. Salim Durani was another batsman who would host sixes on public demand. Those were also the days if Chandrasekhar could survive one ball while batting, everyone would applause.

Vijay Merchant, Suresh Sariyya and Anant Setalwad were one of the finest commentators that I have heard alongwith Bobby Talyarkhan as an expert commentator. My grandfather would eulogise Booby Talyarkhan. He would also appear on TV on weekend but with my primitive English skills, I hardly understood what he said with his thick eyeglasses while scratching his beard. But he sounded someone real great. He would always address Kapil as Nikhanj. Somehow, Nikhanj sounded aggressive than Kapil. Raju Bharatan came later but he was too fast for to me comprehend. I liked the trio of merchant, Sariyya and Setalwad. They had charming voice and sounded very sweet. There would always be Anandji Dosa who would provide statistics. In Marathi, it was Bal Pandit.

Those days, cricket spectators would comprise mainly Marathi guys from middle and lower middle class locality and old retired Parsee men. Parsee’s would possess binoculars but would not hesitate to give to small Marathi kids who would be accompanied by their dads. Everyone would spread newspaper on those wooden benches that would run from one gate to another. As soon as people would enter stadium, everyone would run to be at the west stand – right above the pitch to get a glimpse of swinging ball. When a fielder would stop the ball in covers or throw the ball over stumps, appreciative spectators would applause. That was the time I could hear dads telling their kids that this fielding was nothing compared to Tiger Patuadi and Rusi Surti- yester year cricketers. Parsee on the other side would nod and chuckle. I would also hear about folklore of CK Naidu hitting the square clock on the pavilion with six. When game would get uninteresting, section of crowd would float balloon from white condoms and when they would reach the ground, it would create wholesome laughter. During the afternoon, when place would get warm, I would walk right on the top edge of the stadium and see Marine Drive and expensive apartments. I remember crowding around hawkers who would keep crispy small triangular samosa with onion vegetable fillings on wooden stand in the shape of sand timer; those would cost 5 paisa each. Afternoon hours, peeled cucumber filled with red chilli and salt alongwith Popsicles of frozen orange ice sealed in plastic – they would call Pepsi – would be in demand. Couple of Ranji, Duleep trophy matches and one Test match from office building gave me real baptism of cricket education and its nuances. These days , watching the match on TV may be comfortable but doesn’t have same charm and passion as that of witnessing it live.

After the match, invariably everyone would get into discussion and analysis of the match and narrate their experience of Brabourn Stadium. My father would reminisce of his going early morning just to see the event of ‘toss’ but never managed to see one. My uncle would talk about Bapu Nadkarni’s reputation of bowling continuous maiden overs. When Bapu would come to bowl they would go for a walk around Marine Drive and even after half an hour of their return, scoreboard would have hardly moved and Bapu Nadkarni’s maiden overs would still be continuing. They would talk fondly about Polly Umrigar (sad he passed away today), Vijay Manjarekar, Chandu Sarvate and also about Quadrangular matches among Hindu, Muslim and Parsee gymkhana clubs. Those were the days, when Bombay would have hold on the Ranji Trophy- year after year and for almost 20 plus years. Players changed but Bombay spirit remained same. In later years, when half of the Bombay team would be on tour abroad playing for India, Ajit Naik, Milind Rege, Abdul Ismail, Rakesh Tandon, Padmakar Shivalkar would swung matches in seemingly hopeless situation and snatch win for Bombay. Sunil Gavaskar, Ashok Mankad, Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Sardesai, Eknath Solkar, Farookh Engineer from Bombay would form the top six batsmen of India. I think emergence of Karnataka, Bengal and Delhi broke the Bombay tradition of being an undisputed cricket king. By then, venue shifted from Brabourn to Wankhede stadium and Brabourn stadium was left with Nani Palkhiwala budget speech and Garba dance. Slowly, the gutsy spirit of Bombay cricket team too declined.

Last week, I read the review about a book that talk about sport stadiums and their captivating ambience. Eden Garden, Calcutta and Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg figure on top for cricket events. But for me, Brabourn stadium would always be associated with great cricket.

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Blogger Go Na said...

Brought back great memories of Bombay, of Vijay Merchant and Anandji Dosa, of Sariyya and Setalwad, of triangular samosas for 5p, Durrani, Chandrasekhar and Abid Ali and of dear Brabourne stadium - elegant, proud and unique with fond memories of watching cricket and school sports days......

5:59 AM  

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